Marta Cros, founder of APTO Skincare, on leaving a corporate job to start her own visionary skincare line
Marta sits down with us to chat about the importance of grit in building your brand, the challenges of opening a brick and mortar store during the pandemic, and her advice for leaving your corporate job to become an entrepreneur.
Describe your business in a few words?
At APTO, we offer simple and sustainable skincare routines with products that are clean, natural and affordable.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
My answer here is not super aspirational I guess. I was working in luxury fashion and in a span of a few months I got my green card, which allowed me to work in the USA without depending on a corporate job, and a bad, bad boss. I took it as a sign it was time to just do it.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I grew up playing tennis professionally in Spain so I think that gave me an edge when it comes to being naturally competitive and always up for a challenge. In my 20’s, I worked for big corporations and lived in 10 cities in 10 years. Then I got my MBA at INSEAD, in France, and right after joined LVMH, where I launched the Spanish brand Loewe in the US market.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Yes, yes, yes. I have notebooks full of ideas for businesses dated back to when I was 16 years old.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
We initially launched APTO through a sister company called The Ritualist, which provides on demand skincare services, both for private customers and events. APTO was initially born to perform those services, but rather quickly clients started asking if they could buy the products, and the rest is (kind of) history.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
The most painful moment for me was separating from my cofounder. It was tough emotionally and financially. We had been friends for over a decade at that point and I was in a very dark place for a while. I learned the pain and the hard times are part of the journey and make us who we are, in business and in life.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
My grit and determination to keep this company up and running. A lot of people (including my family) thought I was crazy leaving a dream job in fashion to start my own thing. I’m glad I listened to my inner voice and had the support of my husband and some other key mentors to keep me motivated.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
How do you spend your free time? Work with people you admire and like to spend time with.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
A ton! We opened our first store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on February 15th 2020; it lasted 3 weeks. It was really tough for a while trying to figure out if we would be able to survive last year. We tried to make the most of it, taking the time we usually don’t have to do a deep exploration of our brand’s values and what we stand for. At the end of last year we started getting quite a lot of traction with retailers and we also got into the Target Takeoff Accelerator, so we started 2021 on a high note.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
We want to be available to more people in the USA and overseas by partnering with the right retailers and distributors. Additionally, we want to grow in a sustainable way, both financially and in terms of the amount of products and type of packaging we put in the world.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
Less is more. Less is now.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
If you have a corporate job, try to build your business as a side hustle first. I quit my job months before the company had any revenue and years before I was able to pay myself a salary! Plan for the financial hardships that come with the risk you are taking since it will affect you personally and your family.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
I prioritized myself first, then my family, then my business. It’s like what they tell you in the airplanes – in case of an emergency, you need to put your oxygen mask on before you help others. I make the most of my flexible schedule to make time for plenty of exercise (tennis, yoga, running) and have followed a plant based diet that fills me with energy and the right mindset to take care of everything else.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
For me personally, work life balance is the privilege to have power over your schedule. For instance, I decided not to stop working when my kids were born, because I do feel my best emotionally and mentally when I am taking care of my business. However, I’ve been able to spend ample time with both of them and attend all of their special milestones. I aspire to build a business where everybody involved has control over how they manage their time, whatever priorities they may have.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
Early in March 2020, I left NY with my family to join my parents on a one-week holiday in the Dominican Republican. I had 1 shared suitcase with my two kids (2.5 years and 6 months old at the time). Because of COVID, we ended up staying in the DR for 99 days. Although it was at times quite stressful because of everything that was going on in the world, we ended up having a really nice time as a family, and it had a huge impact on me in terms of my need for material things. Having so little stuff there was liberating.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
- Find a set of productivity tools that are adequate for your business needs – in my case, I survive thanks to Trello for project management; Gorgias for customer service; Google Drive for file sharing; Loom to send how-to videos and LastPass for passwords (can you think off something more annoying than starting your day getting an account blocked because you did not type in the right password?).
- Start with what you’re feeling more lazy and uncomfortable about. Just get it out of the way so you can spend more time on things you enjoy more.
- Move your body, go for a walk, listen to music or an interesting podcast. Zoom out to zoom in.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
It means believing in myself.